Two Days with Backchanneling

Photo taken from the Battery in Charleston, South Carolina

First off, congratulations to all of the winners of this year’s EduBlog Awards. I continue to be overwhelmingly impressed with the ideas and the quality of writing that’s coming from young, fiercely dedicated, and creative educators. I also continue to be impressed with the continued contributions of us oldsters, with more experience and a more prolonged sense of history.

Raise your hand if you started teaching before personal computers.

Again, “Congratulations!”

I caught a couple of Twitter posts and Facebook updates just as we walking into the house last night after our short vacation in Charleston, connected to the Elluminate session and listened to the first several categories. But then it was time to rush out to the grocery store to stock up, with snow and other forms of treacherous precipitation on the way to Western and Piedmont North Carolina today.

We had a wonderful time in Charleston where the weather bent over backwards to accommodate (forecast of 80% chance of rain on the first day and we got sunshine the whole time). Lots of walks, lots of pictures, and some engaging and informative tours — including my first time out to Fort Sumter. I also spent some time at a wonderful independent coffee shop, City Lights, that remained busy, even with three Starbucks within the surrounding four square blocks.

Perhaps the best part of the travel was taking the train. It was a bit complicated by the fact that we had to change trains in Wilson, NC. But we enjoyed lunch at a dinner on the way out, and coffee and brownies at a coffee shop during an hour-long delay coming back home yesterday. But riding the train was an extremely relaxing way to travel, and I envy travelers in Europe and parts of the U.S. Northeast for their access to rail transportation.

It was also productive time for me, as I spent most of both directions, reading through and commenting on the backchannel transcripts from a day-long workshop last week near Pittsburgh. Usually when I process these things it is for one-hour presentations, and I’m usually rushing through them at the airport or wee hours of the morning. During this trip, I took my time, and enjoyed the richness of discourse that happens with smart people during a prolonged learning experience.

I’ve already written to much for this entry, and I need to get some work done on my new book before lunch time. I will share here, though, that I was forced to try a new backchanneling tool in Pittsburgh because of the very sad but unavoidable demise of Knitter. Alas, I was warned that upgrading my servers to PHP 5.0 in order to speed up Citation Machine, would possibly break some of my PHP applications. It did, and most of them I was able to repair fairly quickly. But, because Knitter was a hack of somebody else’s application, I was not able to track down the cause of its refusal to work — so I started searching.

What I found, was a delight — TodaysMeet. You name your room, indicate how long you want it to remain available, and even enter a hash tag that can be used by Twitter chatters, that forces their posts into the TodaysMeet stream. I even rigged a fairly simple way to move the transcript over to my wiki, so that the conversation can continue as part of the online handouts.

This is the power of backchanneling to me, that the conversation can continue, giving me a chance to visit my teaching from the perspective of the learners, and to visit topic aspects that I did not cover, and often didn’t even know. It multiplies the learning, in my opinion.

More about the Pittsburgh Transcript later.

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